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Violence Research Centre


The VRC and its affiliated international researchers published several papers in the first months of 2019. Here is a selection on different topics. 


Child victimisation

Childhood Predictors of Violent Victimization at Age 17 Years: The Role of Early Social Behavioral Tendencies by Margit Averdijk, Denis Ribeaud and Manuel Eisner in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The authors analysed five waves of data from the Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso), a longitudinal sample of 1138 Swiss primary school children. Social behavioural tendencies were measured at age seven. These included internalising problems, externalising behaviour, prosocial behaviour, negative peer relations, competent problem-solving, dominance and sensation seeking. Path analyses were conducted of the association between these tendencies and violent victimisation at age 17. Mediation through victimisation at ages 11, 13, and 15 years was also examined.

Several childhood social behavioural tendencies predicted later victimisation in both sexes, although some risk factors differed. For male children, sensation seeking, externalising behaviour, high prosociality and negative peer relations at age seven increased later victimisation; for female children, dominance and externalising behaviour were predictive. The authors believe that incorporating these findings into early prevention programmes could reduce victimisation over the life course.


Child bullying

A longitudinal study on stability and transitions among bullying roles by Izabela Zych, Maria Ttofi, Vincent J Llorent, David P. Farrington, Denis Ribeaud and Manuel Eisner in Child Development. 

Bullying is a harmful, antisocial behaviour present in schools around the world. Involvement in bullying has serious short- and long-term consequences for school communities and the society as a whole. This paper included almost 1000 participants, girls and boys, who answered a questionnaire about bullying perpetration and victimisation at age 11, 13, 15 and 17. The University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the University of Zurich, has been running a 15-year longitudinal study, The Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso), investigating 1,675 children since their admission to the first year of Zurich’s primary schools in the autumn of 2004.

The results confirmed that children could be classified into roles such as uninvolved children, bullies, victims and bully/victims and showed that bullying becomes less physical with age. Most of the children who are not involved in bullying at age 11 are never involved in bullying, or involved just once throughout their adolescent years. Understanding the developmental change in bullying is crucial for its detection, given that physical forms can be easier to detect than subtler ones. It is therefore crucial to stop bullying before it becomes persistent, through education and anti-bullying programmes. Early prevention and intervention are urgently needed.


Child maltreatment

Long-term trends in child maltreatment in England and Wales: A time series analysis of official record data from 1858 to 2016 by Michelle Degli Esposti, David K. Humphreys, Benjamin M. Jenkins, Antonio Gasparrini, Siân Pooley, Manuel Eisner and Lucy Bowes in The Lancet Public Health.

It is unclear whether child maltreatment is increasing or decreasing in England and Wales. The paper investigated whether its annual incidence has changed over time, using official data and time-series methods. The authors used six data sources - Government records for child mortality, police-recorded child homicides, crimes against children, child protection and children in care, and NSPCC data - to estimate the incidence of child maltreatment and examine long-term trends.

They found that the incidence of child mortality by homicide or assault decreased by 90% (2·7 per 100 000 children) between 1858 and 2016 and the incidence of people guilty of child cruelty or neglect decreased by 83% (6·7 per 100 000 adults) between 1893 and 2016, whereas child protection registrations increased by 182% (328·7 per 100 000 children) between 1988 and 2016.

Crimes against children and children entering care increased between 2000 and 2016. In 2016, 40 children died by homicide, with twice as many adolescent (15–19 years) deaths than infant (age <1 year) deaths. In 2016, 67,700 children were placed on the child protection register - neglect and emotional abuse were the most common reasons. Although long-term trends have decreased, child maltreatment remains a major public health problem in England and Wales. 


Sex trade in adolescence

Sex Trade Among Youth: A Global Review of the Prevalence, Contexts and Correlates of Transactional Sex Among the General Population of Youth by Maria Krisch, Margit Averdijk, Sara Valdebenito and Manuel Eisner in Adolescent Research Review.

Transactional sex, the casual exchange of sexual favours for money or gifts, has been associated with negative outcomes and health risks, particularly among young people. This global review explores trends of buying and selling sex among male and female teens across 28 countries. It compares the differences and similarities in prevalence rates between genders, sex trading activities and country income groups while examining the relationships and situations surrounding transactional sex.

The review suggests low rates of transactional sex in high-income countries - selling and buying rates are below 10% in all countries - and high in low- and middle-income countries - selling and buying rates of 60% or higher in seven countries. Boys are more likely than girls to sell sex in high-income countries while the opposite seems to be true in low- and middle-income countries. 

The age of onset is around 15 years; many sellers and buyers already know each other before trading sex and are often of a similar age. Money is the most common form of compensation. Correlates of selling sex include involvement in other risky sexual behaviours, substance use, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, family break-up and a history of victimisation.


School interventions

An Analysis of Response Shifts in Teacher Reports Associated with the Use of a Universal School-Based Intervention to Reduce Externalising Behaviour by Aja Louise Murray, Tom Booth, Manuel Eisner, Denis Ribeaud, Karen McKenzie and George Murray in Prevention Science.

School-based psychosocial interventions are widely used to prevent or reduce externalising behaviour. However, evaluating their effects is complicated by the fact that interventions may not only change the target’s behaviour, but also the way that informants report on it. For example, teachers may become more aware of bullying behaviour after delivering lessons on the topic, resulting in increased reporting.

The authors used multi-group confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate whether teachers exposed to the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) intervention changed the way they reported on child externalising behaviour. Using data from the z-proso study (802 participants; 51% male; 69 teachers), teacher reports of aggressive behaviour, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and non-aggressive conduct disorder symptoms were compared pre- and post- intervention and across the intervention and control conditions.

There was no evidence that teacher reporting was affected by exposure to the intervention. This helps bolster the interpretation of intervention effects as reflecting changes in child behaviour, rather than in the manner of reporting.


School exclusion

What can we do to reduce disciplinary school exclusion? A systematic review and meta-analysis by Sara Valdebenito, Manuel Eisner, David P. Farrington, Maria M. Ttofi and Alex Sutherland in the Journal of Experimental Criminology

A systematic search of 27 databases, including published and unpublished literature, was carried out between September and December 2015. Eligible studies evaluated interventions to reduce the rates of exclusion for children from ages four to 18 in mainstream schools and reported results of interventions delivered from 1980 onwards.

These studies showed that school-based interventions significantly reduce school exclusion during the first six months after implementation. Four approaches offered promising results: enhancement of academic skills, counselling, mentoring/monitoring and teacher training. 


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